Last week’s episode of Silicon Valley was its best for two reasons: First, after four weeks of world-building, Mike Judge and company introduced narrative stakes into the series by giving Pied Piper a deadline for their live demo at the TechCrunch Disrupt competition. And second, it was their funniest episode—because it confidently played into each of the characters’ strengths and serviced them equally (save for Richard, who is best as the straight man anyway). It was a necessary move for the series to push the narrative forward as it enters the back half of its debut season, but it was even better to see Silicon Valley deftly balance character-based comedy and a genuinely engaging plot. It signaled a good step forward for the future of the series.
Unfortunately, “Third Party Insourcing” disappoints because it abandons the series’ narrative momentum, and except for a handful of funny moments and a hilarious subplot, it forgets to bring the comedy. The episode is overstuffed with three stories that are barely connected and needlessly separate the ensemble. The two main plots quickly run out of gas and end on predictable notes. “Third Party Insourcing” feels like an early episode of another series entirely, one that didn’t come roaring out of the gate, when it’s still trying to figure out its strengths and weaknesses. But with two episodes left in the season, it’s disheartening to see such a well-defined series produce an episode this lackluster.
With one week left before their debut, Richard experiences a crisis of confidence because he can’t configure Pied Piper to the cloud, which Erlich describes as “the future of computing.” It’s a big blow to Richard, who considers himself a good programmer (he learned Ruby on Rails over a weekend when he was 17). The rest of the Pied Piper team pushes Richard to work with a consultant who’s colloquially referred to as The Carver (Austin Abrams) because he hacked into the Bank of America system and “carved” it to pieces. It turns out The Carver is really a high school tech wizard named Kevin who pledges to do the job in a weekend, just as long as he’s got a good supply of Mello Yello and Adderall, which naturally just kills Richard.
It’s a good start to a story that never really meets its full potential. Credited writer Dan O’Keefe plants an interesting seed here about how running a business necessarily means working with different types of people, some of whom are going to be really talented jerks. It makes sense that Richard would learn this lesson in his early days as CEO so he can move forward with Pied Piper more confidently.
But instead the story goes down a predictable road: When Richard returns to the homestead with groceries, he finds The Carver crying and shaking underneath the table because he accidentally “skull-fucked” Pied Piper’s entire system. Kevin admits that he also took down Bank of America’s system by accident when he was working there, and the only reason he didn’t get sued is because he promised not to tell anyone (which, of course, he promptly does). Richard is then forced to comb through every line of code with an Adderall-deprived high-schooler, which subsequently jumpstarts Richard’s mini-adventure to get Adderall from a group of local neighborhood bullies just to get the system stabilized. By the end of the episode, Richard gets his cloud architecture, Kevin walks away from Pied Piper with 20 grand and a promise not to tell anyone he worked there, and… nothing of consequence really happens. Abrams does a good job of playing a super-smart douchebag, and Middleditch is reliably great working off of him—but honestly, a random virus could have infected Pied Piper’s system and the story would have played out similarly. It just felt like an unworthy distraction from the season-long narrative.
Meanwhile, the B-plot revolves around Gilfoyle’s girlfriend, Tara (Milana Vayntrub), and Gilfoyle convincing Dinesh that asking her out is a good idea. (Gilfoyle tells Dinesh that because he believes in the concept of “compersion,” which is “when someone takes pleasure in seeing their loved one gratified by another person… sexually,” Dinesh has permission to sleep with Tara.) This sends Dinesh into an anxious frenzy and makes Erlich jealous; it ends in Dinesh’s humiliation when he propositions Tara near the end of the episode, because Gilfoyle, obviously, is fucking with him. While the story produces a couple funny moments, it’s a version of a story that’s been played out a bunch of times on much weaker sitcoms. Plus, it’s pretty dispiriting to see yet another female character devoid of any real characterization on this series; Tara is simply “the hot girl” and nothing else.
“Third Party Insourcing” would have been a bust if it weren’t for the subplot involving Jared and Peter Gregory’s driverless car, which is so hilarious and inspired that it almost singlehandedly saves the episode. After Jared gets a signed check from Peter for Kevin’s fee, Monica promises to have Peter’s car take him home. Much to Jared’s glee, a driverless car pulls up complete with a voice-activated GPS waiting to drive him back to Pied Piper. However, about a mile from Pied Piper, the GPS overrides Jared’s initial destination and instead sends him 4,000 miles away in the direction of Peter’s personal island, Arallon, which is currently in construction. The car drives Jared straight into a shipping crate, which is loaded onto a ship that’s headed out to the middle of the ocean.
Zach Woods absolutely shines in this episode as his calm nature (he politely refers to the car as “Mr. Car”) eventually turns into straight panic when his phone dies and he can’t find a living, breathing human being to help him. But the subplot itself is a continuation of a recurring theme in Silicon Valley: No matter how advanced technology becomes, it will always be imperfect, because the humans who create them are inherently imperfect. Judge takes satirical aim at the technology-worshipping sect of Silicon Valley by showcasing how these technical innovations don’t always make life easier, and how sometimes they even makes life harder. Just ask Jared—who wakes up on Arallon after two days of sleeping in his car to find Peter Gregory’s island being constructed entirely by machines. While it’s the logical end to the initial gag, it doesn’t make the last shot of Jared screaming out into a vast ocean any less funny or pointed. It’s a shame that the rest of the episode couldn’t live up to it.
- Thanks so much to Les Chappell and the TV Club editors for allowing me to fill in this week! I hope I didn’t muck anything up while Les is on vacation.
- One of the best scenes this week is when Erlich scares a neighborhood bully who stiffed Richard on Adderall into coughing up the drugs. Not only is it hysterical (it’s T.J. Miller’s funniest scene by a mile), but it also features my favorite shot in the episode next to the very last one: Richard standing menacingly while Erlich does his dirty work. It’s the most Zuckerbergian moment in the series so far.
- Andy Daly makes a welcome return as the most unhelpful doctor next to The Literal Doctor.
- Christopher Evan Welch is sorely missed, but we do get some updates on Peter Gregory’s idiosyncrasies. For example: Even though he’s building an island in which you can walk across the International Date Line, he still requires the car because he’s “not really big on walking.”
- Best sight gag: Dinesh’s pro-con list for deciding whether or not to proposition Tara; the con side is filled with various arguments, like “Possible Gilfoyle STD” and “Gilfoyle tweets,” but the pro side has only one argument: “Ejaculation.” It’s the only argument that Dinesh needs to make his decision.
- Best line delivery of the night comes from Kumail Nanjiani: “You’re probably right, she just wanted to fuck a Danish.”
- “I don’t know how you did it, but you essentially aged 40 years in the last seven weeks. We had a meth addict in here this morning who was biologically younger than you are, and he’s 58. Myspace guy.”